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Wisbech's Southern League debut... and that day at Halesowen

Wisbech played their first Southern League game on Saturday, August 23 1958 and beat Rugby Town 4-0 in the North West Section.

Though they lacked nothing in enthusiasm, Rugby seldom moved as a unit and were held in a grip of iron by the dominant Wisbech half-back trio of Henry Adamson, Johnny Crosland and Amos Moss.

After the interval play was often confined to the Rugby half for long periods and only the grand goal-keeping of McCormack stood between the goal-hungry Fenmen and a runaway victory.

Wisbech Town 1958/59.
Wisbech Town 1958/59.

In attack it was the same old story. Jesse Pye and Bobby Langton bewildered the Rugby defenders and provided shooting opportunities for Johnny Downie and Terry Marshall.

Downie was his usual thrustful self and his two goals were well taken. The scoring was completed by a typical Pye low drive and a cracking Langton angle shot.

Att: 3,534.

Wisbech's youth team about to leave for Germany in 1959.
Wisbech's youth team about to leave for Germany in 1959.

In June that year Wisbech Town were invited to send their youth team to play in an International tournament at Dusseldorf where they enjoyed the hospitality of the Lower Rhine F.A.

The first match was against Enschade from Holland and was a 2-2 draw. The second was against German side Schleswig which was lost 3-1. The next day they played Trier at Neuss, losing 3-2.

The next match was against the winners of the competition, Grevenbroich on their home ground and Wisbech Youth did themselves proud, drawing against them and being the only team to score against them, albeit an own goal.

Their free time included a tour down the Rhine and sampling the local cuisine.

On Saturday, March 30, 1985 Wisbech Town put on one of their best ever displays when drawing 2-2 at Halesowen Town in the FA Vase Semi-Final: Second Leg.

Wisbech had started the season with one win in the first eight games, the other seven being draws, but the team started to gel together and embarked on a Vase run which brought the supporters out in force.

Wins over Newell United, Brantham, Soham Town, Heybridge Swifts and Tunbridge Wells gave the Fenmen a quarter-final game away to Bury Town who included former England International and Ipswich Town star Kevin Beattie in their line-up.

Six bus-loads of Wisbech fans plus those who made their own way were the majority in the crowd and they roared the team to a 2-1 victory.

The semi-final draw placed them with Halesowen Town and a poor performance in the first leg at Fenland Park which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The following week the Wisbech supporters made their way to Halesowen for the second leg, and when they saw the dreadful state of the West Midlands League champions’ pitch, they must have felt they had no chance of making it through to Wembley.

Yet the team gave one of their best displays ever seen, even though they went a goal down after 45 seconds of play.

Just two minutes later Wisbech equalised, Marty Wiles setting up John Scase to fire home.

One of the worst times to concede a goal is just before half-time and this is just what happened when Halesowen went ahead.

The second half saw Wisbech push the home defence back and on a decent pitch they would have equalised earlier than five minutes from time when Jackie Gallagher managed to fire home through a crowded penalty area.

Extra-time saw both sides have chances to win the tie but exhaustion won the day and when time was called the score was 2-2 with every supporter praising the efforts of both sides.

Unfortunately Halesowen won the replay the following Wednesday at Nuneaton, going on to win the final, beating Fleetwood by 3-1 at Wembley.

That venue missed out on what could have been one of the best finals ever, because Wisbech and Halesowen were definitely the two best teams at the semi-final stage.

Kevin Hudson

Kevin Hudson.
Kevin Hudson.

What nobody knew in the crowd at the Halesowen game knew was that goalkeeper Kevin Hudson only just passed a fitness test as the team-sheets were given to the referee.

Kevin injured himself in a five-a-side game at Peterborough on the previous Monday and manager Roy McManus took a gamble and the keeper played well.

Acknowledged as saving more penalties than any other keeper for the club, Kevin, a Whittlesey-based player, started playing for Wisbech in Season 1981/82. From Seasons 1988/89 to 1993/94 he played for March Town and then Chatteris before returning to Fenland Park. He played his last game in Season 1997/98.

Ian Jones

Ian Jones.
Ian Jones.

Also playing for the Fenmen in that match at Halesowen was a tenacious tackler and a very popular player – Ian ‘Jigger’ Jones took over as manager in May 1993.

His record as a player for the Fenmen is a total of 582 apps plus 45 substitute apps and 8 goals from 1977 to 1997.

As manager he was present in some of the most turbulent and exciting times in the Fenmen’s history.

He started to build his side – sixth in the Jewson League 1993/94. Third in the League the following season, also winning the League Cup, a 3 – 1 win over Newmarket Town and the Cambs Invitation Cup – a 4 – 2 win over Cambridge City.

Season 1995/96 was the infamous “Sandwich Saga” season, however, the team reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup for the first time for 30 years – a 5 – 1 defeat at Kingstonian,

Promotion was the aim the following season,1997/98, achieved by finishing second in the League, plus another FA Cup First Round appearance – losing 2 – 1 to St Albans at home and a 2-0 quarter-final defeat away to Guisborough in the FA Vase.

After ten games in the Dr. Martens League he was dismissed as the club decided to go for a full-time manager. He came back as caretaker manager with Mel Mattless in 2004 before Dick Creasey took charge, then returned for the 2007/08 season which didn’t go well – a 5-0 FA Vase debacle at Walsham–le-Willows followed by a 9 - 0 defeat at Soham Town. He decided to resign.

Ian also managed Fakenham Town for a while. And also played for Chatteris Town and was also a Cambs County player and also played for a FA XI XI. Ian will always be remembered for his whole-hearted commitment when-ever he played. Another great club man.

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